Chapter II: Captain Kidd
Measures to suppress piracy-- The Adventure fitted out-- Warren's squadron meets with Kidd-- His suspicious behaviour-- He threatens the Sidney-- Waylays the Red Sea fleet-- Captures the Mary-- Visits Carwar and Calicut-- His letter to the factory-- Chased by Portuguese men-of-war-- Chases the Sedgwick-- Chivers-- Action between Dorrill and Resolution-- Kidd captures the Quedah Merchant-- Dilemma of European traders at Surat-- Their agreements with the authorities-- Experience of the Benjamin-- News of Kidd's piracies reaches England-- Despatch of squadron under Warren-- Littleton at Madagascar-- Kidd sails for New York-- Arrested and tried-- His defence and execution-- Justice of his sentence-- His character-- Diminution of piracy-- Lowth in the Loyal Merchant-- Act for suppression of piracy-- Captain Millar
For this purpose the Adventure galley waspurchased and fitted out, and the command was given to William Kidd, who was suggested to Lord Bellamont as a fit person for the task. Kidd was an old privateersman who had gained some reputation in the West Indiesduring the war. Lord Bellamont had been appointed Governor of New York,though he did not proceed there till two years later. The king had charged him to use his utmost endeavours to put a check on the pirates who sailed from New England, and nothing better occurred to him than to obtain a commission for Kidd to act against the rovers. A general rewardof £50 was offered for the apprehension of each pirate, and £100 forEvery, increased in the following year to £500.
In December, a commission under the Admiralty Seal was issued to Kidd, authorizing him to proceed against French shipping. He was to keep a journal of his proceedings, and any ship captured was to be carried into the nearest port and legally adjudged by a competent court. If condemned, he might dispose of it according to custom. Six weeks later, a secondcommission under the Great Seal was granted him, in his capacity of a private man of war, to apprehend all pirates, freebooters, and sea rovers, the names of Thomas Too (? Tew), John Ireland, Thomas Wake, and WilliamMaze, or Mace, being specially mentioned. Again, he was enjoined to keepan exact journal of his doings, and the pirate ships he captured were tobe proceeded against according to law, in the same manner as French captures.
A subsequent warrant was granted to the syndicate, who figure in it as the Earl of Bellamont, Edmund Harrison, William Rowley, George Watson, Thomas Reynolds, and Samuel Newton. Under these unpretentious names were hidden Lords Orford and Somers, and other Whig nobles. They were to account for all goods and valuables captured in the rovers' possession: one-tenth was to be reserved for the Crown, the rest being assigned to them to recoup their expenditure.
The Adventure carried thirty guns and rowed twenty-six or thirty oars. In May 1696, Kidd sailed from Plymouth for New York with a crew of about seventy men. On the way he captured a small French vessel, which was properly condemned, and the proceeds helped to complete the equipment ofthe Adventure. In New York he filled up his crew to one hundred and fifty-five men, and people shook their heads when they saw the men of doubtful character that he enlisted. It was felt at the time that, eitherhis intentions were dishonest, or he was taking a crew that he would be unable to control. The men were promised shares of what should be taken,while Kidd himself was to have forty shares. Nothing was said as to the share of the owners or the Crown. In September he sailed for the Cape.There were plenty of pirates and French trading-ships close at hand on the American coast, but he did not waste a day in looking for them.
Within a few days of Kidd's leaving Plymouth, a royal squadron consisting of the Windsor, Tyger, Advice, and Vulture, under CommodoreWarren, sailed from Sheerness to visit the harbours and watering-places,used by East India ships, as far as the Cape, and clear them of pirates. The squadron, with five East Indiamen under convoy, made its way slowlyalong the African coast, losing many men from sickness. Two hundred leagues west of the Cape they sighted a strange sail that seemed to wish to avoid them. Warren gave chase and forced it to heave to. On being signalled to come on board, the commander proved to be Kidd, in command of the Adventure. Asked to account for himself, he told how he was engaged to look for Every and destroy pirates, and showed his commission.Apparently, this was the first that Warren had heard of him, but there was no gainsaying the royal commission, so the usual hospitality was shown him, and he was bidden to keep company as far as the Cape.
Warren had lost many men on the Guinea coast, and asked Kidd to spare him some. No better opportunity could have been found for getting rid of troublesome men, but Kidd declined to part with a single one. As Warren's wine told on him, his true character showed itself. He boasted of the feats he was going to do, and the wealth he would get, till Warren wasfilled with disgust and suspicion. The Adventure wanted a new mainsail.Warren could not spare him one. No matter, he would take one from the first ship he met; and he was finally sent back to the Adventure,reeling drunk. For six days he sailed in company with the squadron. Thena calm came on, and at night, making use of his oars, Kidd stole away,and was nearly out of sight when the sun rose.
On reaching the Cape, Warren could get no news of him, but to the captains of the Company's ships he communicated his suspicions of Kidd. Three of them, bound for Johanna in the Comoro Islands, the Sidney, the Madras Merchant, and the East India Merchant, agreed to sail incompany for mutual protection. The Sidney, being the faster sailer,reached Johanna in advance of her consorts, and found the Adventure at anchor in the roadstead. As the Sidney came to anchor, Kidd sent a boatto Captain Gyfford, ordering him to strike his colours, and threatening to board him if he refused. Gyfford prepared to defend himself. Two days later the East India Merchant and the Madras Merchant appeared,making for the anchorage, and Kidd lowered his tone. He then invited thethree captains to come on board the Adventure, which they refused to do, letting him plainly see that they distrusted him.
Soon they had to warn him regarding his ill-treatment of the Johanna people, for which they threatened to call him to account. This unlooked-for attitude on the part of the three captains made Kidd uneasy; and finding that they would not leave the anchorage till he had gone, he made sail and departed. Some of the crew of the Adventure had, however,used suspicious language, saying they were looking for an East India ship.When asked if they would attack a single one, they answered evasively, while continuing to boast of the things they were going to do. These early proceedings of Kidd effectually dispose of the plea that his intentions were at first honest, and that he only yielded to the coercion of his crew in taking to piracy, after reaching the Indian seas.
The truth is that Kidd was resolved on piracy from the first, and had little difficulty in persuading the majority of the crew to join him. It can hardly be doubted that the accounts of the great wealth acquired by Every had turned his head. There were a number of men on board the Adventurewho were unwillingly coerced into piracy, and who remained in a chronicstate of discontent, but Kidd was not one of them. Long before he had made a single capture, it was reported in the ports of Western India thatKidd was a pirate.
From Johanna he shaped his course for Madagascar, but the pirates were all away in search of prey; so he continued his cruise in the Mozambique Channel and along the African coast. He is said to have met Indian ships at this time without molesting them, which was afterwards cited to showthat his intentions were then honest. It is more likely that he was onlydoubtful as to his own power, being unacquainted with the weakness of Asiatics, and reserving himself for the rich prey offered by the Mocha fleet.
Cruising northwards, he landed at Mabber/1/ on the Somali coast, and took some corn from the natives by force-- his first bit of filibustering [=freebooting]. Thenmaking for Perim, he anchored to await the Mocha fleet. Three times he sent a boat to look into Mocha harbour, and bring notice when the Indianships were ready to sail. As the fleet in scattered array emerged fromthe straits, he singled out a large vessel and began firing at it. This at once attracted the attention of the Sceptre frigate that Sir JohnGayer had sent as a convoy, and Kidd took to his heels.
If Every had been in his place, he would have followed the fleet across the Indian Ocean, and have picked up a straggler or two, but the sight of the Sceptre and a Dutch man-of-war had been enough for Kidd, and he leftthe pilgrim fleet alone. Without molesting them further, he made his way eastward, and, on the 29th August, off Sanjan, north of Bombay, he took the Mary brigantine, a small native vessel from Surat. This was Kidd's first capture on the high seas. Thomas Parker, the master of the Mary,was forced on board the Adventure to act as pilot, a Portuguese wastaken to act as interpreter, and the lascars of the Mary beaten and ill-treated.
A week later he put into Carwar for provisions, flying English colours; but his character was already known. The Sunda Rajah and the factory stood on their guard while he was in harbour. Harvey, the chief of the factory, demanded the surrender of Parker, but Kidd vowed he knew nothing about him. Eight of his crew deserted, and told their story.They had no desire for the piratical life into which they had been trepanned [=forced], and reported that many more of the crew would leave him if they could get the chance. While off Carwar he careened [=turned on its side for maintenance] the Adventure on a small islet in the harbour, which was long known as Kidd's island.
A month later he was off Calicut, where his ever-recurring trouble about supplies is shown in the following letter to the factory:--
"Adventure Gally, October y'e 4't, 1697.They knew who he was only too well, so he sailed for the Laccadives, whence news was soon received of his barbarous treatment of the natives, and that he had killed his quartermaster./2/ The letter is characteristicof Kidd's methods. From his first entrance into the Indian seas his conduct had aroused suspicion. Owing to the large amount of coasting trade and the frequent necessity of calling at many places for water, the news of the sea spread from port to port with great rapidity. At the moment of his writing this letter he had the master of the Mary a prisoner under hatches, and the factory chiefs of Carwar and Calicut were well aware of it; but to the end he believed that he could throw dust in the eyes of the Company's officials by making play with the royal commission.
While he was on the coast, Kidd was chased by two Portuguese armed vessels, a grab and a sloop. The grab was a poor sailer, and Kidd had no difficulty in eluding it; but the sloop, a better sailer, allowed itself to be drawn on in chase, till Kidd, shortening sail, was able to give it several broadsides, which reduced it to a total wreck; after which he showed a clean pair of heels. At Kidd's trial it was stated he had ten men wounded in this business.
In April 1698 the Sedgwick, arriving at Fort St. David, reported that on its way from Anjengo it had been chased for three days and nights by Kidd, but had been saved by a stiff breeze springing up. On its return voyage the Sedgwick was less fortunate, being captured off Cape Comorin by Chivers, a Dutchman, in the Soldado, otherwise known as theAlgerine, of two hundred and fifty tons and carrying twenty-eight guns. The cargo of theSedgwick not being to Chivers' liking, and being put into good humour with sundry bowls of punch, he let the Sedgwick go,taking out of her only sails and cordage.
The year 1698 saw the Company's trade almost extinguished owing to the depredations of the sea rovers and the hostility aroused against Europeans. Every letter brought accounts of the pirates and the losses occasioned by them. In small squadrons they swept the coast from Madras to the mouths ofthe Indus, and haunted the sea from Cape Comorin to the Straits of Malacca.In July, the Company's ship Dorrill, bound for China, was attacked in the Straits of Malacca by the Resolution, late Mocha, commanded by Culliford, and after a hot engagement of three hours made the pirate sheer off, with heavy losses on both sides. Bowen in the Speedy Return, for the taking of which Green was, with doubtful justice, hanged, Chivers in the Soldado, North in the Pelican, Halsey, Williams, White, andmany others of less fame, were plundering and burning everywhere with impunity.
Early in the year, Kidd captured the Quedah Merchant, a country ship bound from Bengal to Surat, belonging to some Armenian merchants who were on board. The captain was an Englishman named Wright; the gunner was a Frenchman, and there were two Dutchmen. This was the best prize made by Kidd, and yielded some £10,000 or £12,000, which was at once divided among the crew of the Adventure, Kidd's forty shares being one-fourth of thewhole. Able seamen got one share; landsmen and servants a half-share only. The Surat factory was filled with alarm, not without good reason.
In vain Sir John Gayer wrote to the Governor, and sent an agent to the Emperor to disclaim responsibility. In August came an imperial order directing that the English, French, and Dutch should be held responsible for all losses, and that for the Quedah Merchant alone the English should pay two lakhs of rupees. Guards were placed on the factories; all communication withthem was forbidden; their Mahommedan servants left them, and their creditors were made to give an account to the Governor of all debts owing by Europeans. The Dutch and French tried to exonerate themselves by laying all the blame on the English, but the Governor refused to make any distinction, and called on the three nations to pay fourteen lakhs of rupees as a compensation for the losses occasioned by piracy.
Sir John Gayer was a man of action. Like Macrae, to be mentioned later in these pages, he had first brought himself into notice as a sea-captain, and as Governor of Bombay had upheld the Company's interests for four years, in circumstances of no ordinary difficulty. The time for some decided action had arrived, if the Company's trade was to continue. On receiving intelligence of these occurrences, he appeared off Surat with three armed ships, and sent word to the Governor that he would neither pay any portion of the fourteen lakhs, nor give security. At the same time he intimated that he was ready to furnish convoys for the Mocha ships, as he had already done; and in proof of good will in acting against the pirates, pointed out that now the war in Europe was at an end, a royal squadron was on its way to the Indian seas to extirpate them.
The European traders on the west coast had always been so submissive to the Emperor's authority that this unexpected display of vigour astonished the Governor: he moderated his tone. The Dutch declared they would abandon the Surat traderather than pay; so the Governor consented to make no demand for past losses, if the English would engage to make good all future losses by piracy. This was also refused. Finally, the English, French, and Dutch agreed to act in concert to suppress piracy, and signed bonds by which they jointly engaged to make good all future losses.
Onerous as these terms were, the agreement came not a moment too soon. The news of it reached Aurungzeeb just in time to procure the reversal of an order he had issued, putting a final stop to all European trade in his dominions. He told the Surat Governor to settle the matter in his own way. In pursuance of the agreement, the Dutch convoyed the Mecca pilgrims and patrolled the entrance to the Red Sea, besides making a payment of Rs.70,000 to the Governor; the English paid Rs.30,000 and patrolled the South Indian seas; while the French made a similar payment and policed the Persian Gulf.
An experience of the Benjamin yacht at this time showed that pirates were not prone to wanton mischief, where there was no plunder to be gained. In November, the yacht lay at Honore, taking in a cargo of pepper, whenthe well-known pirate ships Pelican, Soldado, and Resolution came into harbour for provisions. Seeing the Bombay Governor's yacht, theynaturally concluded that some attempt would be made to prevent the natives from supplying their wants. They at once sent word to the master of the Benjamin that they had no intention of molesting him, unless he hindered them in getting provisions, in which case they would sink him. The master of the yacht was only too glad to be left alone; the pirates got theirprovisions, and in recognition of his behaviour, presented him with a recently captured Portuguese ship. Sir John Gayer, in much fear lest he should be accused of being in league with the pirates, quickly made it over to the Portuguese authorities.
When the intelligence of Kidd's piracies reached England, there was a storm of indignation in the country. Party feeling was running high, and with unusual violence. The majority in the House of Commons desired the ruin of Somers and Orford, while aiming at the King. The charge of abetment in Kidd's misdeeds was too useful a weapon to be neglected, so it wasadded to the list of accusations against them. It must be admitted that the circumstances of the Lord Chancellor, the head of the Admiralty, and other prominent men using their influence to forward a venture from whichthey were to profit, under fictitious names, and that had created such a scandal, demanded inquiry. It was hardly sufficient to say that they had lost their money. Such an answer would justify any illegal enterprise in the event of its failure.
The French war had come to an end, so in January 1699 a royal squadron of four men-of-war, the Anglesea, Harwich, Hastings, and Lizard,sailed from Portsmouth for Madagascar under Warren./3/ They carried with them four royal commissioners and a proclamation offering a free pardon, from which Every and Kidd were excepted, to all pirates who voluntarily surrendered themselves before the end of April 1699. The pardon related only to acts of piracy committed east of the Cape of Good Hope, between the African and Indian coasts. After calling at St. Augustine's bay, whereseveral pirates made their submission, the squadron reached Tellicherry in November. As it came to its anchorage, Warren died, and was buried on shore the following day. He was succeeded in the command by Littleton. In the following May, Littleton was on the Madagascar coast, where he remained till the end of the year before returning home. During the whole time he was in communication with the pirates. His dealings with them brought him into disrepute in shipping circles. Hamilton tells us that "for some valuable reasons he let them go again; and because they found adifficulty in cleaning the bottoms of their large ships, he generously assisted them with large blocks and tackle falls for careening them."
Possibly Hamilton's remark was due to the conduct of Captain White of the Hastings, whose behaviour excited such suspicion that Littleton placed him under arrest, fearing he would make his ship over to the pirates. Littleton remained on the Madagascar coast for eight months without firing a shot. When he first reached St. Mary's, the pirates greeted him with a salute of nine guns, to which he responded with five, and he was in closeand daily communication with them. Whether any pirates made their submission to him does not appear; but it is probable that his presence strengthened the resolution to obtain pardon of those who had previously engaged themselves to Warren; among them Culliford and Chivers. The fact is that piracy was looked upon then more leniently than we should now regard it. Plundering and ill-treating Asiatics was a venial offence, and many a seaman after a cruise with the pirates returned to his calling on board an honest merchantman, without being thought much the worse for it.
Among all the naval officers sent to the Indian seas at that time, Warren appears to have been the only one who really tried to protect the Company's interests. Littleton quarrelled with Sir Nicholas Waite, and had questionable dealings with the Madagascar pirates. Richards and Harland quarrelled with Sir John Gayer, and crippled the Company's ships by forcibly pressing their sailors to fill up their own crews; while Matthews exceeded them all in outrageous behaviour, as will be recounted in its place.
After capturing the Quedah Merchant, Kidd shaped his course for Madagascar, where he found Culliford in the Resolution, who at first treated him with suspicion, hearing that he had a commission to capture pirates. But Kidd soon reassured him over sundry cups of bombo, protesting with many oaths that 'his soul should fry in hell' sooner than that he should hurt a hair of one of Culliford's crew; and as a proof of goodwill, presented him with two guns and an anchor. Then, finding the Adventure had become unseaworthy, he abandoned her, and sailed for New England in the Quedah Merchant. In June 1799, he reached Boston.
Before his arrival he heard he had been proclaimed a pirate, so he deputed a friend to approach Lord Bellamont on his behalf. The Quedah Merchant was disposed of, and his plunder placed in a safe place. By assurance, and by a valuable present to Lady Bellamont, he thought he could face matters out. Bellamont appears to have been puzzled at first how to treat him. He was unwilling to believe all that was said. At the end of three weeks he made up his mind, and arrested Kidd. For eight months he lay in Boston gaol, and was then sent to London for trial, remaining in Newgate for more than a year. Eleven of his crew were also arrested, two of them being admitted as King's witnesses.
In the interval the storm against the Whig ministers had gathered strength, and articles of impeachment against Somers, Orford, and others were being prepared by the House of Commons. On the 27th March, 1701, Kidd was brought to the House to be examined, but he said nothing to inculpate any of the owners of the Adventure, so a resolution was passed that he should be proceeded against according to law.
On the 8th and 9th May he was brought up for trial at the Old Bailey. The first indictment against him was for the murder of Moore, the gunner of the Adventure. There had been a quarrel in which Moore accused Kidd of having ruined them all, on which Kidd called him a 'lousy dog'; to whichMoore replied in a rage, that if he was a dog it was Kidd who had made him one. At this Kidd hurled a bucket at him and fractured his skull. The jury found him guilty. He was then tried, together with nine of his crew, for the taking of the Quedah Merchant. His line of defence was that it was sailing under a French pass, and therefore a lawful prize, but he evaded actually saying so. He declared that Lord Bellamont had some French passes of ships he had taken, but would not produce them. That Kidd had captured some ships under French passes, and that the passes were in Bellamont's hands, is extremely probable; but it is incredible that a French pass for the Quedah Merchant was in Bellamont's hands, and that he held it back. He had been accused of complicity in Kidd's piracies, and threatened with impeachment. Every consideration of private and political interest alike prompted him to clear himself of the charge, and confound those who accused the leading men of his party as well as himself.
Kidd tried to get the witnesses, some of them favourable to him, to say they had seen the French pass, but all they could say was that they had heard him declare there was one. The adverse witnesses deposed that he had feigned to believe that the French gunner of the Quedah Merchant was the captain, though they all knew he was not. When asked, "Captain Kidd, can you make it appear there was a French pass aboard the Quedah Merchant?"he replied, "My lord, these men say they heard several say so." One of the Armenian owners was in court, but he did not examine him; nor could he say why he had not had the ship properly condemned, like the French ship taken between Plymouth and New York. His only reply was that he was not at the sharing of the goods, and knew nothing of it. For his attack on the Mocha fleet he offered no explanation.
He was found guilty, and was then tried for the captures of a Moorish ship (Parker's), a Moorish ketch, and a Portuguese ship. Culliford and two others were next tried for taking a ship called the Great Mahomet. Three of Kidd's crew were acquitted, the rest of the prisoners were found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged. Culliford was respited, having made his submission to Warren. Three of Kidd's crew had hard measure dealt to them. They had made their submission under the King's proclamation, but not to one of the commissioners appointed for the purpose, so their submission went for nothing. On the 12th May, Kidd, with six of his crew and two of Culliford's, was hanged at Execution Dock, the common place of execution for pirates.
It is impossible to follow Kidd's career, and to study his trial, without coming to the conclusion that he deserved his fate. There is no sign that he was sacrificed to political expediency. Directly the House of Commons failed to bring home the responsibility for Kidd's piracies to the leaders of the Whig party, he ceased to be of any importance for political purposes. The charge of complicity with him was only one of ten charges against Orford, one of fourteen against Somers. The court is said to have dealt hardly with him, but courts of justice were not very tender to any criminals in those days, and the jury did not hesitate to acquit three of those tried with him. Criminals were not allowed the aid of counsel, except on a point of law.
Kidd did raise a legal point, and was allowed the aid of a counsel to argue it. His intention was clear from the day he left New York. The four pirates named in his commission were then on the American coast; he made no effort to look for them, but steered at once for the Cape. If he could not control his crew, he could have invoked Warren's help; instead of which he stole away in the night. His threats to the Sidney at Johanna; his attack, after three weeks' waiting, on the Mocha fleet; his detention of Parker, to say nothing of his dealings withCulliford, can only be interpreted in one way. During his whole cruise he never put into Surat, Bombay, or Goa, but cruised like any other pirate.
The legend of his buried treasure has survived to our own day, owing to the fact that he had buried some of his booty before putting himself in Bellamont's hands; but the record of his trial shows that, beyond what was obtained from the Quedah Merchant, his plunder consisted mostly of merchandise. That some of his ill-gotten gains were recovered at the time seems clear from an Act of Parliament passed in 1705, enabling the Crown to "dispose of the effects of William Kidd, a notorious pirate, to the use of Greenwich Hospital"; which institution received accordingly 6472-1.
The scandal caused by Kidd's piratical doings under a commission from the Crown, the political use made of it in Parliament, and the legend of a vast hoard of buried treasure, have conferred on him a celebrity not justified by his exploits. As he appears in the Company's records, he showed none of the picturesque daredevilry that distinguished many of the sea rovers whose names are less known. No desperate adventure or hard-fought action stand to his credit. Wherever we get a glimpse of his character it shows nothing but mean, calculating cunning; and to the end he posed as the simple, innocent man who was shamefully misjudged. His crew were always discontented and ready to desert.
He had none of the lavish open-handedness that made the fraternity welcome in so many ports. Every, Teach, England, and a dozen others in his place, would have thrown the commission to the winds, and sailed the seas under the red flag. Kidd's ruling idea appears to have been that he could hoodwink the world as to his doings under cover of his commission: so that when he heard of the charges against him he believed he could disarm his accusers by sheer impudence. At his trial he attempted to lay all the blame on his crew, and vowed he was 'the innocentest person of them all,' and all the witnesseswere perjured. Whatever touch of misdirected heroism was to be found in any pirate, it was certainly not to be found in Kidd. He was altogether a contemptible rascal, and had no claims to be a popular hero.
Though Littleton's squadron captured no pirate ships, its presence till the autumn of 1700 had a salutary effect./4/ Some made their submission, and the number who continued to ply their trade was greatly reduced. Manyof them were glad to leave a calling that had now become hazardous, in which they had been unwillingly forced to join, while the renewal of the war in Europe furnished a more legitimate outlet for the most turbulent spirits, in the shape of privateering.
North, after making his submission to Littleton, thought better of it, seeing the date of grace had expired, and refused to leave Madagascar. There he remained for several years, fighting and subduing the natives round St. Mary's, till he was finally killed by them. His comrades 'continued the war' for seven years till they had completely subdued the country round.
On the 18th December, 1699, the Loyal Merchant, Captain Lowth, East Indiaman, lying in Table Bay, saw a small vessel of sixty tons enter the harbour under English colours. This proved to be the Margaret of New York. Lowth's suspicions being awakened, he sent for the captain and some of the crew, who 'confessed the whole matter,' and were promptly put in irons. The Margaret was seized, in spite of Dutch protests. Two dayslater came in the Vine, pink [=a kind of ship], from St. Mary's, with a number of 'passengers' on board. These were pirates on their way to New England, to make their submission, among them Chivers and Culliford. Lowth would have seized them also, but the Dutch interfered, and the behaviour of the Dutch admiral became so threatening that Lowth cut short his stay and made sail for Bombay, which he reached safely, taking with him the Margaret and eighteen prisoners. On reaching England, Culliford was tried and condemned, but respited, as has already been mentioned.
While Kidd lay in Newgate awaiting trial, an Act was passed for the more effectual suppression of piracy. Experience had shown that it was useless to issue proclamations against individuals, but that some new machinery must be created to deal with the gigantic evil that threatened to become chronic. Under a former Act, passed in the reign of Henry VIII., the Lord High Admiral, or his Lieutenant, or his Commissary, had been empowered to try pirates; but the procedure had long fallen into abeyance. It had been found almost impossible to bring offenders in distant seas to justice, to say nothing of the cost and trouble of bringing them to England for trial.
Now it was enacted that courts of seven persons might be formed for the trial of pirates at any place at sea or upon land, in any of his Majesty's islands, plantations, colonies, dominions, forts, or factories. It was necessary that at least one of the seven should be the chief of an English factory, the governor or a member of council in a plantation or colony, or the commander of a King's ship. These courts had powers of capital punishment, and also had power to treat all persons who gave assistance or countenance to pirates as accessories, and liable to the same punishments as pirates. The Act was to be in force for seven years only. In 1706 it was renewed for seven years, and in 1714 again for five years.
The amnesty granted to some pirates, the hanging of others,/5/ and the new Act of Parliament, caused a great abatement of the evil. The Madagascar settlements still flourished, but for a time European trade was free from attack. Littleton's squadron had gone home, and was replaced by two royal ships, the Severn and the Scarborough, which effected nothing against the pirates, but served by their presence to keep them quiet.
The Severn and Scarborough sailed from England in May 1703, under Commodore Richards, who died at Johanna in the following March. The command was then taken by Captain Harland, who visited Madagascar and Mauritius, where two men were arrested, who afterwards made their escape at Mohilla. The two ships returned to England in October 1705.
Hamilton tells us how a
"Scots ship commanded by one Millar did the public more service in destroying them, than all the chargeable squadrons that have been sent in quest of them; for, with a cargo of strong ale and brandy, which he carried to sell them, in anno 1704, he killed above 500 of them by carousing, although they took his ship and cargo as a present from him, and his men entered, most of them into the society of the pirates."
This was probably a village near Ras Mabber, about one hundred and sixty-five
miles south of Cape Guardafui.
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